by Tim Bonner

From the Spring issue of My Countryside magazine, Chief Executive Tim Bonner says that while the Alliance continues to fight long and difficult battles across its agenda, there are many reasons for optimism in the coming months.

There are times when fighting the hardest battles that the Alliance is engaged in can seem like climbing a mountain without a peak, but our perseverance over many years can deliver extraordinary results. The announcement by the RSPCA that it is stepping back from private prosecutions is the final step in the Society’s journey from the fringes of animal rights extremism back to being a respected national institution focused on improving the welfare of pets and domestic animals. In very simple terms that would not have happened without the Alliance. A decade ago we took a stand against the bullying and increasingly extreme attitudes of the then RSPCA leadership which was attacking everything from hunting, to horse racing, to farming. Only the Alliance was strong enough and persistent enough to fight that battle and, eventually, to win it.

That victory also teaches us that logic, evidence and perseverance can and do win out even in the face of seemingly outrageous odds. Whether that involves the seemingly endless campaigns against pest control, the ludicrous saga over hunting which continues across the United Kingdom, or the latest fashionable environmental trend of ‘rewilding’ landscapes with no consideration of the impact on traditional rural communities, the Alliance continues to fight those long and difficult battles.

The Covid-19 crisis has done little, if anything, to lower the heat of those battles and the Alliance faces challenges across its agenda in the coming months. In Westminster we are expecting an Animal Welfare Bill to be announced in the spring which could have a significant impact on game farming, predator control and a range of other rural activities. Meanwhile, the Scottish elections look likely to result in an SNP government committed to legislation to license grouse shooting and further restrict hunting, and in Northern Ireland an Assembly Member has proposed private members’ legislation to ban hunting with dogs, which currently remains legal.

There remain, however, plenty of reasons for optimism. The legal assaults that Wild Justice have launched against avian pest control and the release of game birds have had little impact other than to generate income for lawyers as I report in more detail on page 18. Hunting still attracts extraordinary support and increasingly there is an understanding in the hunting community that the changes that hunts need to make to address our changing world can be embraced as a model for the future. Perhaps most positively, the Alliance has been intimately involved in bringing together shooting and land management organisations to create a coalition to promote and protect game shooting. Close working between organisations has helped to resolve many of the legal and political issues I have already discussed, but in the coming months we hope to be able to formalise those relationships into an allegiance which will provide the strongest possible alliance for sustainable game shooting. Creating this coalition has sometimes seemed like climbing that endless mountain, but with the support of our colleagues across other organisations, we are within sight of the peak.

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